Skoda Superb 2.0 TDI 170 Elegance

It's not the most beautiful car, but it's the best in its sector

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Price: £20,500 approx (ranges from £15,000 to £25,000 approx). On sale from September
Engine: 1,968cc, four cylinders, 16 valves, turbo-diesel, 170bhp at 4,200rpm, 258lb ft at 1,750-2,500rpm
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Performance: 138mph, 0-62/8.8sec, 47.1mpg official average, CO2 159g/km

Is it a saloon? Is it a hatchback? No, it's Super(b) Skoda! This new, remarkably roomy and highly interesting car has both a boot lid and a tailgate combined in one. Skoda calls it the Twindoor, and it really is very clever.

Press the Skoda Superb's electric boot button and a conventional boot lid opens when you pull it upwards. But if you continue to press until the high-level brake light flashes, your upward pull releases the boot lid and rear window as a joined unit, transformed into a tailgate. It's a stroke of genius.

If that isn't enough to make you buy a Superb, then maybe the way it moves will do the trick. Manufacturers of cars in this sector – Ford Mondeo at the mass-market end; BMW 3-series and Audi A4 at the expensive end – too often have an unhealthy fixation with over-large wheels, stiff suspension and a notion that customers like the resulting "sporty" ride. But with Britain's roads in their current woeful state, by far the bumpiest and worst-maintained in Western Europe, stiff suspension and big wheels can be a misery.

The Skoda Superb bucks this trend and has wonderfully supple suspension. This un-Germanic trait arises because the Czech Republic, where Skodas are created, has roads that particularly resemble ours in lumpiness. So a car that works well there also works well here.

Talking of size, no rival can match the Superb's rear-seat legroom. Not only are you not obliged to slot your feet under the front seats, but it even has adjustable footrests. The surroundings are suitably superb, too, with expensive-looking and feeling materials and glassy paint. The storage tray by the driver's knee is flock-lined, the glovebox lid is padded; thus are two more posh boxes ticked. There is nothing cut-price or second-rate about this car, despite its value pricing.

Car buyers never quite "got" the previous Superb, even though it was a better car than the previous-generation Volkswagen Passat from which it was loosely derived. This new Superb stands a better chance of recognition, being not just an excellent car but also having a distinctive, deliberately un-racy, look.

Here the eulogies skid to a halt. No one could describe the Superb as a beautiful car. It has some neat detailing, such as the BMW-like shape of the bright-metal-edged side windows and the "Superb" motif in the sides of the headlights, but it looks like a giant Fabia or Roomster from the front and the proportions are unfortunate, thanks to the huge front and rear overhangs.

Astonishingly, the smallest available engine is of just 1.4 litres, its 125bhp achieved with the help of a turbocharger, and is an example of how successful engine-downsizing can be. The other four-cylinder petrol engine is also turbocharged and directly-injected, this 160bhp 1.8 proving as sweet and punchy as it does in other Volkswagen Group products.

There are diesels, too, mostly with the now-outmoded pump-injector system, apart from the 170bhp version of the 2.0-litre unit, which uses a common-rail arrangement. A smooth and quiet installation – all the Superbs I sampled were impressively quiet – it has a typically effortless, muscular power delivery. It's one of several engines available with a DSG sequential/automatic transmission. Top of the tree is a 3.6-litre V6 with 260bhp, the DSG and four-wheel drive.

Finally, the umbrella. Like a Rolls-Royce, the Superb has an umbrella stashed in a rear door, complete with drainage system. That's class. It may look a bit frumpy, but this is a very likeable car. Nothing else in its class makes more sense.

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